The London Czech House brims over with gold, silver, bronze – and now crystal
So far the Czech Republic’s Olympic athletes have won a smattering of medals at the Summer games, but this year all the country’s athletes, medal winners or not, will be rewarded for their efforts with a crystal trophy courtesy of Lasvit, the official crystal partner of the Czech Olympic team and the country’s leading manufacturer of custom light and glass installations. The crystal trophies will also be doled out to VIPs visiting the Czech House, which is playing host to a series of events meant to promote Czech culture during the games. Inside, Lasvit is presenting the finer side of Czech culture with their Hydrogene Crystal Bar, an illuminated bar in the VIP section, as well as Infinity, a sculptural glass lighting installation suspended in the public mezzanine.
Like most of Lasvit’s high-end custom jobs, Infinity was designed by Jitka Kamencova Skuhrava, whose long list of projects for the company include several hotels and event spaces in Abu Dhabi, dozens more in China as well as two teal-colored cascades for Tiffany & Co. Her preference for natural forms shows up again and again, in the swirling glass shapes that weave through the air like frenzied schools of fish or the leaf-like forms that twist into a loose interpretation of the figure eight symbol.
For Infinity, Skuhrava started with 3D renderings of the interior of the Czech House in London to determine what form, size, and lighting schematic would work best for the space. Once she finalized her design and made samples to test it out, the labor-intensive job of hand blowing the individual pieces of glass began. Though Skuhrava comes from a family with a long tradition of making stained glass and is skilled in glass blowing, etching, engraving and all aspects of glass craft, the installations she designs are much too large to make on her own. Still, she oversees all aspects of the fabrication and regularly works with a local Czech glassworks, instructing their craftspeople as to how she wants the pieces made for each project.
For Infinity, Skuhrava used 1,600 9-inch leaves of hand blown glass, each etched with fine, linear grooves. The leaves are woven together with a “special wire system” Skuhrava is hesitant to expand on, saying only that it’s “delicate, almost invisible, but safe.” Once the leaves are strung together they’re attached to a perspex structure in 15 pieces along with the LED system. Infiinity was tested out and preinstalled in the Czech Republic before being shipped to London, where Skuhrava and with five others installed it over two days, from July 21-22, just before the Olympics began. In total, Infinity stretches 21 feet by six and a half feet with a height of five and half feet and weighs in at 2,200 pounds. Though Infinity is quite striking on its own, the Czech House is packed with so much evidence of its culture that the installation is dwarfed by a cluster of large projection screens and is left floating off to the side, looking beautiful, but lost.